Tag Archives: benefits sanctions

Beware the March of IDS

Iain Duncan SmithIain Duncan Smith has resigned. The cuts to disability benefits which he approved are to be reversed++.

After 2138 days in office, after being directly implicated in more than 80 suicides, after more than 2380 people had died though Iain Duncan Smith’s system found them “fit for work”, while children go hungry and cold because of Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit sanctions on lone parents, after a jump in the death rate for the elderly and infirm unprecedented since World War II, Iain Duncan Smith has finally resigned – claiming at length that he did so because the new disability cuts brought in by Wednesday’s budget were “indefensible”.
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Filed under Benefits, Disability, Poverty

Kezia Dugdale is now Deputy Leader

There were three women and two men in the Scottish Labour leadership contest: the media largely ignored Sarah Boyack, Kezia Dugdale, and Katy Clark: most of the mainstream publicity I saw treated the contest as if it were a race between two men, Jim Murphy and Neil Findlay.

Jim Murphy won, MP for East Renfrewshire, and currently his name gets about 2,750,000 hits on Google.

Kezia Dugdale, Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour Kezia Dugdale also won: she is the Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour, and currently her name gets about 75,900 hits on Google.
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Filed under Elections, Scottish Politics

Unemployment is not a sign of bad character

Rachel Reeves became Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on 7th October, Iain Duncan Smith’s new opposite number, replacing Liam Byrne. (She was Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 7th October 2011, and she’s been MP for Leeds West since May 2010.) Her first interview as IDS’s Shadow was published in the Observer late on Saturday night – and Twitter exploded. Blogs to read: Paul Bernal’s “Dear Rachel Reeves”; Mike Sivier’s “Sort out the tax dodgers, Labour, then the benefit bill won’t be a problem”; Jayne Linney “Oh Dear Rachel Reeves – You Got it Badly Wrong!!”.

But in the shouting and the tumult, a handful of people seemed genuinely bewildered as to the problem with what Rachel Reeves had said:

Neither Andrew Spooner nor Hossylass seem to have noticed that while Rachel Reeves is enthusiastic about forcing people into “compulsory jobs”, she’s said nothing about what kind of pay those compulsory jobs will get – and she’s made clear that if you are unwilling or unable to be forced, a Labour government will just let you starve homeless.

If you have been unemployed for a year or two, you are desperate. Read Jack Monroe’s speech to the Conservative party conference. You don’t need a kick in the face, you need a job. And there aren’t enough jobs going.

Well, say the comfortable people who’ve never been there, isn’t that what Rachel Reeves is offering?

Rachel Reeves MPImagine this scenario, then. A woman of 23, with a child to support, loses her job. She can’t find work. After a year, she’s summoned to the Job Centre and told that from now on, she’ll be stacking shelves in Tescos, on whatever pay the DWP choose to give her. If the pay isn’t enough to cover childcare? If the job is too far away and there’s no public transport? If she’s applied to Tesco a dozen times for a paid job and been told there were no vacancies because they can get all the compulsory labour they want from the Job Centre, no cost to themselves? If she wanted to find part-time or flexible work so that she could spend time caring for her child? Tough, says Rachel Reeves: take the compulsory job or we’re done with you, you can die on the street for all we care.
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Filed under Benefits, Poverty, Scottish Politics

Mocking disability: the Telegraph’s hate speech

For some time now the Tories and the LibDems have been pushing the theme that disabled people are welfare cheats. This is a government-led reversal of a policy established by the previous government of tecognising that attacks on disabled people meant

people whose lives were blighted and eventually ended by the actions of an ignorant and hostile minority, either in brutal assaults or by their own hand in desperation Continue reading

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Filed under Disability, In The Media

Job Centre Plus: Statistics over people

There are many awful things wrong with this story of a man killing himself, but here’s something that sort of leapt out at me:

Mr Sanderson constantly struggled to find work and was unable to complete training as an electrician because the job centre would not continue to pay his benefit because his training stopped him from being available for job interviews.

(By the way: news story refers to him as a “former helicopter pilot” and he had been working as a windowcleaner. That, associated with the state of mind that leads a person to see suicide as the only way out, says ex-military to me.)

Let me just highlight this again: an unemployed man, on benefits, with a family to support, wanted to retrain as an electrician. This would have made him more employable and, as Job Centre Plus claims it wants, “Find the way back to work”. But he couldn’t take the training, because then he wouldn’t have been able to go to job interviews, and in order to keep getting the benefits his family were dependent on (his wife had been made redundant in 2009) he had to be available for job interviews. This makes no sense.

But it makes perfect sense in what a whistleblower at a Job Centre Plus told the Guardian in April this year:

“Suddenly you’re not helping somebody into sustainable employment, which is what you’re employed to do,” [the whistleblower] said. “You’re looking for ways to trick your customers into ‘not looking for work’. You come up with many ways. I’ve seen dyslexic customers given written job searches, and when they don’t produce them – what a surprise – they’re sanctioned. The only target that anyone seems to care about is stopping people’s money. ‘Saving the public purse’ is the catchphrase that is used in our office … It is drummed home all the time – you’re saving the public purse. Feel good about stopping someone’s money, you’ve just saved your own pocket. Its a joke.”

Agreeing to continue to support a family on benefits while the father trained as an electrician to give him a better chance of finding work and getting the family off benefits permanently, that doesn’t make sense if your short term quarterly objective is to do all you can to trick people into being sanctioned.

Because, as Job Centre Plus acknowledged by letter a month after the whistle was blown, “some” (they said) of their Job Centres had “set targets for the number of sanction referrals instead of relying indirectly on ‘benchmark levels’ for benefit sanction referrals”. They claim this was a misinterpretation. Was it? If it was their awful mistake, what, if anything, did they do to track down the people who had been tricked into being sanctioned – or, like Mr Sanderson, given up the idea of training because he had been told he would be sanctioned if he did try to retrain – and tell them “We’re very sorry, this was our fault, let us make it right?”

Nothing. I’m just guessing. But clearly, no one told Richard Sanderson, who died at his own hand in May 2011, that the rules had been “misinterpreted”.

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Filed under Benefits, Poverty